Frans Reima Ilmari Pietilä was born in Turku, Finland on 25 August 1923.
He studied (1945–53) at the Polytechnic Institute, Helsinki, with Olli
Pöyry and J.S. Sirén. In 1957 he established himself in the forefront
of his generation when he won the competition to design the Finnish Pavilion
for Expo ’58 in Brussels, a design inspired by the theories of Aulis Blomstedt.
Distancing himself from the more rational studies of his Finnish contemporaries,
Pietilä concentrated on an exploration of the ‘form of form’.
This led to a series of complex, impressionistic, free-form designs. In 1959 Pietilä began work on the Kaleva church (completed 1966), Tampere,
in collaboration with Raili Paatelainen, who became his partner in 1960 and
whom he married in 1961. Although some of the constructional attitudes of early
modernism are still present in the Kaleva church, Pietilä began to experiment
in this design with ‘literal morphology’, a phrase he defines in
a periodical article of 1967. Other chief works include: the Dipoli Student
Centre (1961-66), Institute of Technology, Otaniemi, the Suvikumpi housing complex
(1967-69; extended 1981-82), Tapiola.
Generally, however, the Finnish architectural climate was not sympathetic to Pietilä’s expressionist modernism during the 1960s. His winning competition entry (1963) for the Finnish Embassy in New Delhi finally resulted in a commission only in 1980 (completed 1986). Pietilä developed his ideas chiefly through books and articles. He was one of the founders of the magazine Le Carré Bleu and a member of the editorial board from it’s beginning. Pietilä's theoretic isolation from architects within Finland led him to work abroad. He participated in the Team 10 meetings only in a later phase, 1973 in Berlin and in 1974 in Rotterdam.
Pietilä was a professor of architecture at Oulu University from 1973 to 1979.
He died in Helsinki on 26 August 1993.